The woman who gave birth to me was raised by the grandmother of the woman who raised me. So, essentially, I was raised by my cousin. (Mommy and I are cousins; hmmm.) At eighteen, my mother (the cousin) had married a man 7 years older than her, and after two years, there was a definite “something” missing. Every time she spoke of how she came about being my mother, usually after harassing me to clean my room or learn to cook, she spoke lovingly of the woman who had me.
That woman had been brought into town in the back of a truck at the age of 8 or so. Her only luggage was a black plastic bag of rags that passed for clothes. Amparo was deposited at the entrance of her new parents’ farm, ready to meet her new family. In the true way of children of the village, she was disciplined, taught, loved, cared for, fed, sheltered, clothed, and raised to fear God. The two elderly people who cared for her had many children of their own, but they had grown up. Left the coop, and in their hearts, and home, there was space for more.
She grew up loving housework. Books – well, education was an entirely different matter to the poor girl. Every time I ask around, I’m told the same story. “She was a sweet girl, hard, hard-working girl, but when it came to school? Oh, poor thing. Dunce-y.” Furthering her education was out of the question, and instead, she remained home, caring for her parents. Amparo also caught the eye of a young man from the nearest home, nearly a mile away.
Her first pregnancy was with my older brother. Somehow, the decision to keep and raise the child worked out. Her mother, my grandmother, was a mid-wife, and she witnessed the birth of my brother. Despite their age, she and grandpa were happy to have a grandson so close to home. The second pregnancy, however, was not the same.
In the years since her arrival to the village, Amparo had made friends with everyone. Everyone who knew her will, to this day, rhapsodize about her incredible generosity and kindness. Her work ethic was like no other. In the days of no television or electricity or running water, socializing was an afternoon’s affair. My mother would apparently do all her house chores and then walk down the street, popping by at this or that friend’s house. My mother was often recipient of her visits. Whenever I refused to pick up a broom to sweep, I would be reminded how Amparo would show up to “visit”, and by the time she left your home, she would have laundry hanging on the line if you happened to be working when she showed up.
Older ladies would often sing praises about her homemade breads, left baking in the oven while she headed back home. She would be talking, and you would be lounging on your hammock, and before you knew it, you were being dusted along with the floors and tables and dishes and shelves. She apparently could not sit still for very long. (That genetic trait obviously skipped me!)
Well, upon discovering that she was to give birth yet again, Amparo visited my future mother, her ‘niece’ Isabella. After two years of marriage and still no baby, here was the perfect solution. The story goes that as she arrived at the door with her bump, she merely mentioned “Do you want the baby?” (Thank goodness mother said YES immediately. I dread to think of the psychological issues I would have had I known I’d been rejected at first.) It warms my heart to hear their telling of how they became so instantly in love with me, not knowing if I was a boy or girl, black, purple, red, white or green. Did I forget to mention that the first time villagers saw my biological mother, they saw a gangly, black girl with hair sticking out in every which direction? Oh yes. And she had two children for a Mayan man. (Not so common for the village, and in the 70’s-80’s – so, you go girl!)
Growing up, I would often see two old flour sacks filled with baby bottles and knickknacks. That’s how much my parents bought in anticipation of me. Hammocks were prepared, a small bed, sheets, clothes, milk, hats, booties, socks, the works. Two eager parents happily awaited the arrival of their child. I was born on October 31st, 1981 - a five-pound, tiny, screeching little brown baby girl. My mother claims she was so happy I was a little girl, while I know my father must have felt some sort of disappointment. How else do we explain the years of forced pants-wearing and calling me his little boy? Nevertheless, after caring for me till it was safe, my birth mother handed me over on January 2, 1982. A new baby for a new year…
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